Attracted by the charming evanescence bursting through the yellow bright halogen light; purloined from the slippery grasp of the world at large, the moth reached its demise by immolation on the hot tubes of the halogen lights. Its sudden jerking noise of death was heard by nobody over the drumming of drums and cymbaling of cymbals. Nobody paid attention to its twisting body-on-the-plastic-reflector as it convulsed feebly in unexpressed pain and burning heat. Nobody looked up from the drama unfolding on the lowly earth beside the river to hear the twirling of its wings, curling of its leg in unseen coruscation. He was unknown, a non-entity in death.
Except that somebody had indeed paid attention. Just as it were going to evaporate off its existence, just as its last traces of being were absolved criminally by heat pain and deceit of light; Vishnu the director of Ram Leela looked up from the act, his attention diverted by the scrawny noise emanating from creature-melting-on-the-reflector. He quickly withdrew his eyes though; murder of an ignominious insect from the millions zooming across was of least concern to him. Big things were happening and were scheduled to happen that night. Of course he didn’t know then that they were not in the manner he had designed or anticipated…
On the stage, Inder, the person enacting part of the monkey god Hanuman was doing a perfect gig. Jumping and swaddling, with his artificial tail swinging behind him; he effectively conveyed the loyalty and allegiance towards his saviour lord.
‘Thou lord, O mine! Don’t worry you should. This humble monkey is on your footsteps to serve, he will do anything you need. O swear of the heathen skies of this tempestuous day; O witness this rowdy winds! Because thy will do anything for you, so be it to cross the seven seas. For your help, I’ll uproot the world if you need, my benevolent master!’
The older generation of the crowd ooh-ed and aah-ed at the display of such heart rendering fealty and kinship. Most of the young lot were not present, and those who were, were on verge of falling asleep. Trials and travails of idealistic gods were out of vogue, it seemed to Vishnu. But it wasn’t the composition of crowds he was concerned about. It was the reactions of seeing somebody like Inder enact their favourite part he was worried about. It had been tough decision to cast Inder. But he was fabulous, and fitted the bill with his huge frame and power packed arms.
Inder was a recluse without choice. He was an idealistic man, who was left without any other option but to be alone. People avoided Inder simply because they were afraid of him. More often than not, streets of crowd would vanish wherever he went. And that is not a hyperbole. It was too much to face what he might say. Of what he might make them realize. Of what he might make them stop them from doing. He was far too honest and blatant to be accepted by majority. Inder was devoid of any empathy and any belonging. He just floated adrift as if a tiny pore; unhinged and uncared for. Shunted and avoided, he had slowly started to become paranoid. Not mad. Not demented. Not delinquent. Plainly filled to brim with fear and anxiety of how the world was turning out. Fear, which we usually ignore…
The next scene was about his conversation with Shani; Saturn who had chosen to arrive in Hanuman’s destiny at the crucial junction of building of Ram setu. According to the script he had to convince him to come some other time, since he had to do such a tedious job. But Inder being Inder did what he wanted to. Or what he felt he should have.
‘O thou master of discipline! Thou harbinger of hard work! Thou supplicant of efforts!’ he cried loudly, deviating away from the script and dialogues. The guy who played Shani looked confusedly towards Vishnu, who gave anxious and urgent looks; as if asking him to somehow cover up for heavens sake!
‘The lord of those divine rings of sternness! The master of ultimate tests of life! The bringer of all the trails to meek humans; how should I lend protection to these twitches running at my door to seek help against you?’ Inder continued. A young boy laughed and everybody looked at him in surprise which stifled it immediately.
‘I am helpless o lord of toil, I am puzzled and simply out of wits as to what and how to say to these shameless and spineless creatures… tell me what should I do, so that they can avoid hard work you want them to go through. Tell me what should I do, so that they live a life without learning lessons. Lead me my lord!’
The crowd got startled and started buzzing like a huge sonorous bee. This was one of the reasons why Vishnu was so worried about casting Inder. He was forever controversy’s illegitimate child. The bee was almost ready to sting when the Shani character got up, hurriedly blurted some dialogues and changed the scene. Inder, crestfallen and disappointed walked to the backstage. He felt abject frustration. Something he wasn’t able to convey to anybody properly. Ironically that fuelled the frustration. ‘It is high time’ he thought.
When he was supposed to imitate Sita; who was applying the sindoor on her forehead as a mark of respect for her husband Rama; he had to apply the same sindoor all over his body to show the innocent gesture of unwavering fealty. But, after applying the sindoor he again started to deviate from his scripted dialogues. Thankfully for Vishnu it started to rain then which distracted the viewers and gave him the opportunity to usher Inder aside and promise to murder him the very next opportunity if he at all alter his dialogues once again. This blew the lid off Inder. He could take that no more.
Just when his last scene was to begin, he picked up a drum and slung it around himself. The scene did not need him a drum. It was where he had to tear his chest to show the divine pair was present in his heart and thus always was with him wherever he went. But Inder had different things on his mind.
He started beating the drum loudly and began in an announcing voice. Ignoring the rest of the cast and whatever dialogues they were uttering, he began to rant his tirade against a world which had always suppressed him under its feet. And then there was no stopping him.
‘O listen the skies as I defile this innocuous platform for expression. O hear the gods as I besmirch the tranquillity of thoughts. O heed the lords because I come out and say what I wanted to say, what I had to say, but what couldn’t say, hadn’t been given a chance to say all throughout! Open your ears O fools because this is no drama I am doing. Listen to me once for you may never get a chance to follow the path of right again…’
‘O the supreme almighty, O the creator of universe, I have been denied in this creation of yours! I have been shunned and made desolate in this enchanting world of yours. All because a few ears were getting pricked by the words coming out on your order. All because somebody had taken up the mantle to say what had to be said; what was supposed to be said. Come to my aid O goodness! Help me in their distress…’
‘This world you created has failed you miserably. You made them for peace. They fight for maintaining that. You gave them intelligence to create. They destroy using that. You asked them to spread love through religion. They spread hatred through that. You asked them to be united, together and for a single cause. They divide themselves on the basis of cause. You asked them to be satisfied. They ask for more and more after that. You asked them to do good. They keep on doing bad. You asked them to search you within. They search you everywhere but there. You asked them to grow. They pull down the one who does that. You asked to repent, become compassionate. They do just the opposite of that. This world is a failure my lord. We are all being led into a huge gaping blackhole of demise. Slowly but surely. We are inching near and near all the time, each second, each moment every time one of your million children does something against your wish we are nearing there… very surely and most definitely.’
He started prancing around the stage then. His red sindoor coloured body got exposed to rainwater time and again making him look as if he had had a blood bath. He beat his drums even more loudly, as everyone stared at him in complete silence, in rapt attention to his every word.
‘What am I? Who am I? They make a mockery of me my lord! They whisper behind my backs, yes. They don’t think I know, but I most certainly am aware. They call me an ape. A stupid idiotic brainless monkey, who follows every order of you; my lord! Without once thinking up for himself! They just outwardly respect me. It’s just a show off, pernicious attitude. They don’t really care. They don’t really learn. They don’t see that Hanuman brought the Sanjeevani Booti on time. They see that he has brought the whole mountain along. They don’t see that Hanuman is pure and consummate. They see that he is loyal and unquestioning. They don’t see the devotion. They see his unwavering service. They keep on jesting in their minds. They don’t respect. They lie to you and me that they respect. They lie to the world that they respect. They lie to themselves when they say that they respect. The fact is that they don’t respect themselves my lord. How can they ever respect us?’
‘They don’t learn my lord. I keep on trying to make them learn. I keep on showing them hints to learn. Keep on telling them stories to learn from. Try to rouse the devotion in their soul so that they might learn. But to no effect master. They remain the same every time. They keep on continuing with their idiocy. They keep on following each other and end up going nowhere. They keep on failing me, you once twice thrice every time. They fail and fail miserably. And after doing that they try to hide the failure by acting. Yes my lord, we have gathered a world of actors out here. They are just acting, masquerading hiding in the shadows of self doubt to SHOW that they know. But do they by acting to do so? No my lord. They remain as ignorant as they were. They do not grow. They do not move out of their comfort zone…’
The drum beat reached the penultimate level of crescendo then. The world seemed to revolve around Inder and his volcanic eruption of suppressed thoughts anger anxiety, oh whatever you name them.
‘But do I despair? Nay my lord, I don’t. But do I lament? Ye my lord, sadly I have to do that. I lament that I have not been listened to. Not once, twice thrice but since forever. Oh hear they do, but never ever have they paid attention to my voice. Never ever thought about what it said, what it guided. I have just been heard as a drone, as a lecture. Or else they use me, woo me, lure me, bribe me whenever they need help. Yes that is what they do. Either ignore or bribe. Nothing else. They don’t see they don’t pay attention. They don’t feel my beloved lord! They have lost the sensation. I am now a nothing, a variable, a non entity amongst the hordes of troubling matters you had created for them to enjoy. They have lost touch with the simplicity which imbibes in the greatness of creativity. They are just copying, freaking bloody copying. They don’t look out for real lesson. Everything is supposed to be tailor made and spoon feeded into their mouths now. The exploration has been lost. The voyage into the inner realms has been lost. They look at me as if I am just a symbol. Hanuman the Lanka torcher. Hanuman the ring carrier. Hanuman the planet saviour. Hanuman the abstract strength. Hanuman the blah blah blah… but not the Hanuman of innocent innocuousness. Hanuman the devoted messenger of hope. Hanuman the personification for grit and perseverance. They just see me as the one who tore open his heart to show to people that you are in there.’
Inder started banging his chest dangerously then.
‘But they don’t see that I actually want to say that you live in there.’
He started to pull at his skin, digging his nails and his brute strength into his body.
‘They don’t see that I mean to say that you are everywhere, here there and nowhere’
Blood started to trickle out then. Vishnu realised what was happening and broke away from the trance when it happened finally.
‘They don’t see that you are in them, me, yourself and everybody my lord, my master. They fail to recognise you; fail to see you feel you get connected with you. They fail to see that you are in here.’ And he tore apart his chest.
Dead silence followed. Slowly it came around to Inder what had happened. He saw his body ripped by his own hands, his hands stained red by the sindoor, wet by rain and his blood; managed to fall down with a smile and swam in a pool of red water, his blood mixed with rain and sindoor.
Nothing happened at all. Just a single ring of fright shame and realization rang across hundreds of hearts as the rains raged on and clouds thundered. After all it was just one person less at the end. If you see it from the mathematics perspective. Clouds were fighting and rain was falling, within few hours they would subside and probably after few years Inder too would become an object of gossip, his final message being unheralded after all. It was just one down according to maths. No big deal…